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4 Most Common Sleep Training Concerns, Answered


Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

When it comes to getting babies to sleep, the number of sleep training methods available can be daunting, intimidating, and overwhelming. 

Which methods are best for you and your baby, if any?

To help you find out, here are some easy-to-follow answers to the most common questions and concerns parents have about training babies to sleep.

These simple tips, along with the help of a knowledgeable pediatric sleep consultant, should have your baby (and you!) heading to the land of Nod in next to no time. 

1. When’s the Best Time to Start Sleep Training Infants?

In most cases, experts recommend that sleep training should commence when your infant is around six months old. It’s at this time babies are ready to start learning how to fall asleep on their own. They’ve developed enough to start learning this skill, but haven’t had too much time to get used to being nursed or rocked to sleep. 

Equally, at this age your infant is likely to start sleeping for longer periods of time (around six to eight hours) without needing to feed. 

2. What’s the Cry It Out (CIO) Method, and Is It Cruel?

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Photo by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash

Also known as extinction sleep training, the cry it out method involves putting your baby to bed and leaving them to cry until they fall asleep on their own. This is often one of the hardest sleep training methods to carry out for any caretaker. It’s a natural instinct to want to reach out and comfort your baby when they’re crying. However, the method is much harder on parents than the baby. And within three or four nights, you’ll likely find they’re falling asleep on their own without much fuss. 

This also means that once you’ve fed your baby and settled them into their comfortable sleeping environment, you won’t need to return to their room until morning or their next feed. 

3. What’s Ferber Sleep Training? Is It Right for My Baby?

If you’d rather try a non-CIO sleep training style, the Ferber method may be the way forward for you and your baby. This applies a more graduated approach to the CIO method, meaning you check on your baby at longer and longer intervals as time goes on. 

Over the course of a few nights, you’ll gradually increase the length of their intervals of crying, therefore teaching baby to self-soothe so they start to fall asleep on their own. Before you know it, your baby should master the art of self-soothing so there’s no need to keep checking in on them. 

4. What Are the Other Types of Sleep Training Methods, and Do They Work?

While the above two training methods are the most common, there are several others that may work for you and your baby. 

These include:

  • The pick-up and put-down method: This is similar to the Ferber technique but doesn’t involve lengthening the crying intervals. Rather, you wait to see if your baby starts to soothe on their own. If they don’t, you pick them up and soothe them before putting them back to bed. Or, a less hands-on approach to this is to be in the room with them to soothe them, e.g. patting their tummy or stroking their head until they fall back to sleep. This method can take longer than others. 

  • The bedtime fading method: If you find that your baby is crying for long periods of time and seems to resist bedtime, you may need to adjust their body clock so they fall asleep at the desired bedtime. Start by looking for telltale signs that your baby is tired before putting them to bed. Hopefully, this will help them fall asleep (if not, try again in half an hour). Make a note of the time they fall asleep. Then, on the following night, start putting them to bed 15 minutes earlier. Keep repeating this process until they’re falling asleep at the right time. 

  • The chair method: If your baby won’t sleep in its crib and you don’t want to try the CIO or Ferber methods, you may want to try this one. The chair method involves sitting next to your baby’s crib until they fall asleep (without you picking them up). Then, every night, keep moving your chair further and further away from their crib until you’re out the door and they’re falling asleep without you in the room. Be aware that this method may lead to a common separation anxiety and sleep training problem, as your baby may be upset when they wake to find that you’re not there. 

A Worthwhile Process for You and Your Baby

Image by Irene Goeleven from Pixabay 

While the thought of sleep training a 6-month-old baby can be daunting, it is often for the greater good. Establishing a great bedtime routine through one of these sleep training methods will stand you in good stead for long, sleep-filled nights in the future. 

Yes, it may initially involve tears for both parents and baby, but it teaches your baby an important life skill that enables them to fall asleep - and stay asleep - on their own.

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